The Winters Participation Gallery submitted a community grant application to AARP to receive funds and create a downtown community park in the vacant lot on Main Street next to Pacific Ace Hardware.
Winters residents Valerie Whitworth and her late husband, Michael Barbour, bought the lot almost 20 years ago for the purpose of using it as part of the Winters Participation Gallery.
In the meantime, the City of Winters expressed interest in making it into an exhibiting art park so the couple sold it to the City along with their architectural plans.
However, the City’s plan stalled. The dirt lot remained vacant, except for some bushes, a couple of trees, a bench, the annual community piano, Winters Friends of the Library’s Free Little Libraries and fencing blocking access to the alley.
The lot was recently cleared and a new community piano was delivered.
A few months ago, City Manager Kathleen Trepa called Whitworth about the lot and learned more about its history.
During a Winters Senior Commission on Aging meeting, Whitworth found out about the AARP Community Challenge grant program that appeared to be a perfect match for the park. The problem, said Whitworth, was a tight timeline to write and submit a grant proposal.
With Trepa’s assistance they wrote the grant and submitted it on April 13, one day ahead of the deadline. The Participation Gallery received letters of support for the grant from community groups, such as, Rotary Club of Winters, Winters Downtown Business Association, Winters Chamber of Commerce and more.
The grant proposal requests $271,000 in funding to develop the park, including building an outdoor stage for use as a classroom and live performances, connecting water and electricity, design of a low water use garden and creating an artist park.
Whitworth said there are “big plans” for the space.
The Participation Gallery will learn in late June if they will receive the funding. If so, they will have between the end of July and November to build it out. With another task in December of providing AARP with photo evidence of its completion.
If they do not receive the funding this year Whitworth said they can reapply next year.
The AARP Community Challenge provides grants to fund projects that help communities become more livable for people of all ages.